The bike ride to aunt’s place through the streets with father is still vivid in my memory! I had just been admitted in one of the public schools despite the meagre income which my father earned. I had purchased a new pair of shoes to attend the school and the moment I reached her place, I announced, see my shoes have not broken! Everyone had a hearty laugh.
To me like most children my parents were my world and like Lord Ganesh who once was asked to compete with this brother to circumambulate around the three worlds, I too would have gone around them thrice to have won the race!
I learnt the art of being self-reliant from him and he not only preached but practiced what he believed in. When we were still kids we would see him help mother in cooking and at times prepared things that surpassed our mother’s cooking! Once when one of his friends visited us and asked who cooks at home, in all innocence, I said, mostly ‘papa cooks and sometimes, mother cooks’ which sent them in peals of laughter and for many years they oft repeated this anecdote when visiting us! There were times when he stayed alone but never did he depend on anyone to cook even a single meal for him. On the contrary, if someone visited while he was alone, he would treat them to a full meal or snack depending on the time of the day!
He learnt many things just by observing people at work and could take on any task from mending clothes, stitching his pajamas, washing his clothes, ironing our clothes when we attended school, so that we never go out shabbily dressed. Having served with the British Army personnel during the Second World War, he was always punctual for everything, be it attendance in office, morning and evening walk, yoga session, timing for meals, social events and even time to go to bed. One could almost set his watch looking at the routine in action! He remained a teetotaler and vegetarian with very simple way of life. There are countless memories that drift like a cloud on a windy day as I look at the void created by his absence.
I was the lucky one who got to stay with him till the very end which came just a few days after he celebrated his 90th birthday. He was confined to the bed for 15 days before he breathed his last, on the midnight when the Father of the Nation was born, 02 Oct! On 04 Oct in the wee hours of the morning at 4.45 AM both my wife and I lay on the bed, slowly talking when we were startled by a gleeful cry of a small child! We both simultaneously, climbed out of the bed and looking at each other asked, ‘did you hear it’? We looked at our mobiles thinking there was a prank but they were silent like the rest of the house! May, be it was god’s way to tell us to move on in life, something father had always believed in and taught us!